Graves photographs Delaware Water Gap

A stereoscope card of Caldeno Falls in Delaware Water Gap, featuring a photograph by Jesse A. Graves. Two images were placed side-by-side and the cardboard image would be viewed through a stereoscope, allowing the user to see a three-dimensional image.

By Amy Leiser
Executive Director


Delaware Water Gap, both as a town and a natural geological landmark, has been featured as the subject of numerous pieces of artwork, stories, poems, and photographs. For years, visitors have been drawn to this small mountain community. Jesse A. Graves was no different.

An article and obituary on the front page of the May 9, 1895 edition of the Stroudsburg Times reflected how the community lost a citizen who had “done more for the beautiful summer resort than any one now living within its boundaries.”
The Jeffersonian newspaper reported that Delaware Water Gap had lost “one one of its most enterprising and useful citizens.”

Jesse A. Graves was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1835. By the age of 27, he had married Elenor Harris, and the couple had three children: Lida; Albert, and Joseph.

In 1867, Graves and his family moved to Delaware Water Gap, where he established a photography and photographic supply business. Drawn to the beauty of the area, Graves photographed not only the natural settings, but also many of the buildings and hotels in Delaware Water Gap. His business boomed, and Graves had to hire two assistants to keep up with the demand for his photographs.

Graves became a contributing member of the community and worked tirelessly to better his surroundings. He was a Mason of the Brooklyn Lodge and a member of the Presbyterian Church. Graves served as the chair of many town committees and was employed as the town’s postmaster, serving for three terms.

In 1882, Graves created the
Mountain Echo, a Delaware Water Gap newspaper for residents and visitors that was published during the summer boarding season. Graves felt it was his duty to promote his adopted town as a premier resort destination. Through this colorful publication, which featured lists of social events, stories of local history, train schedules, and information on area merchants, Graves was able to promote the developing resort industry through articles and his own photographs to hundreds of vacationers, many of whom became friends.

Graves worked with and encouraged George W. Childs, a philanthropic frequent guest of the Water Gap House and the Kittatinny Hotel, to build an arbor and refreshment stand featuring ornate wooden steps and railings overlooking a waterfall. This location became known as Childs’ Arbor. Graves’s took many photographs of Childs’ Arbor.

In September 1894, Graves became ill, suffering from severe head pain. Local physicians were unable to diagnose Graves’ condition and he was sent to Philadelphia and New York to receive additional medical advice. Unfortunately, doctors were unable to determine a cause for his pain, and Graves returned home and died a few months later. A post-mortem examination was conducted by Dr. Shaw of Delaware Water Gap, Dr. Walton of Stroudsburg, and Dr. Rhodes of East Stroudsburg. The doctors were assisted by John Brodhead. The men discovered that Graves had suffered from a large blood clot on the brain.

Graves died at one o’clock on Friday, May 3, 1895. He was buried with full Masonic ceremony at the Delaware Water Gap Cemetery. Jesse Albert Graves, like so many both before and after him, embraced the picturesque views and promoted the vibrancy of the small village of Delaware Water Gap. He lived during a time of rapid growth in Monroe County’s history and was involved in helping to establish the foundations of area tourism and to advertize Delaware Water Gap as “the gateway to the Poconos.”